Beginning as a teenager, bank founder Arlo Washington always understood that his purpose extended beyond himself.

KARK-TV4 in Little Rock, AR, reports that Washington took on the responsibility of caring for his two younger sisters after his mother passed away when he was 17 years old. Despite the emotional toll, he was motivated to sharpen his barber skills.

He opened his first storefront to serve clients using a student loan intended to support his education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“I started cutting hair when I was 19 years old,” Washington told KARK-TV4. “I barbered for two years, and then I opened my own barbershop.”

Washington would later add a total of four barbershops to his portfolio, which provided up to 27 people with jobs. He accomplished this despite not being exposed to financial literacy growing up.

In 2008, he pivoted and establish the Washington Barber College in Little Rock. The school was able to provide loans to qualifying students after it became accredited through the Council on Occupational Education and certified by the Department of Education.

However, the experience sounded the alarm on a greater issue within the community.

“We had a sign on the side of the college that said financial aid is available to those who qualify,” Washington shared with Next City. “So people started coming to the barber school asking for loans.”

In response, he had a number of questions, he said: “Who’s your banker? What’s your bank doing? Why your barber school? Why are you coming to us for loans? And they said, ‘There’s nowhere else for us to get loans, my bank won’t make me this loan.’”

As result, Washington committed $1,000 each month from the college’s profits to provide the community with low-interest loans, per Shoppe Black. This led to the People Trust Community Loan Fund, a not-for-profit.

However, he soon learned a financial institution would be the best solution to address the financial obstacles faced by the community.

“One of the common things that we hear from our loan fund customers is they can’t get a checking account,” Washington explained, according to Next City. “They can’t open an account anywhere else.”

As a result, People Trust Community Federal Credit Union was birthed in 2022. It is the first Black-owned bank in Arkansas and exists to prioritize underserved communities, according to THV11.

“Our mission is to provide access to financial products and services to low and moderate-income communities who wouldn’t otherwise receive the opportunity,” Washington told THV11.